In economic development switch, jobs agency could get name change

'Department of Economic Opportunity is kind of a mouthful.'

After a 30-year hiatus, the Department of Commerce could be back.

Lawmakers passed HB 5, which overhauls Florida’s economic development programs and renames the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) as the Department of Commerce. The change is being made for clarity.

“If somebody came in off the street and asked you what DEO is — it’s confusing. Department of Commerce — that’s sort of self-explanatory,” said Sen. Ed Hooper, a Clearwater Republican who chairs the Senate Tourism, Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee, during budget negotiations last week.

His House counterpart, Rep. Alex Andrade, a Pensacola Republican, agreed.

“Department of Economic Opportunity is kind of a mouthful. I’m kind of glad for the change,” Andrade said.

The bill passed the House in a unanimous vote Thursday, after passing the Senate on a 36-1 vote earlier in the day, with Sen. Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat, the only no vote. It will next head to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

Florida used to have a Department of Commerce until the early 1990s, when the state began to move to a public-private economic development model. Enterprise Florida, the state’s main business recruitment agency, and VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing group, were created in 1996 as public-private entities, performing functions beneficial to the state and private businesses and funded with public and private money.

But the name change now is part of a reversal of that move. The bill moves Enterprise Florida into the Department of Commerce, making it a completely governmental enterprise while keeping VISIT FLORIDA as a public-private entity. House Speaker Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, pushed for the move, saying Enterprise Florida had “overpromised and underdelivered.”

It’s a sea change from how the groups were viewed by most Republicans until 2017. Then-Gov. Rick Scott cherished the programs as vital job-creating agencies that helped Florida rebound from the depths of the Great Recession. Scott led the push to create DEO in 2011, combining three legacy agencies.

But in 2017 he battled then-House Speaker Richard Corcoran, when Corcoran pushed to eliminate Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA. Scott ultimately prevailed but lawmakers imposed new transparency requirements on VISIT FLORIDA and eliminated some of the incentive programs used by Enterprise Florida to entice businesses to move or expand in the state.

DeSantis, though, hasn’t defended the programs in the same way, although he was on a multicountry trade mission to Japan, South Korea, Israel and the United Kingdom last week that was organized by Enterprise Florida when the House and Senate reached the agreement to shutter the agency.

Gray Rohrer


  • Earl Pitts American

    May 4, 2023 at 4:54 pm

    Good afternoon Florida,
    I’ve always felt “The Earl Pitts American Re-Employment Agency” would be an excellant choice to operate the agency under.
    It has a nice ring to it!!!
    Also a statue of me, Earl Pitts American, in a beautifully landscaped park in front of the main enterance would be so appropriate!!!
    Thank you Florida,
    Earl Pitts American

  • Jackson

    May 4, 2023 at 5:50 pm

    Visit Florida is not part of this bill and will not be a government agency. Visit Florida was on the chopping block and was spared in the deal made 2 weeks ago. They are actually receiving a funding boost from 50 to 80 million dollars. Please check the facts.

  • Mark Litten

    May 5, 2023 at 1:09 pm

    While I think the elimination of Enterprise Florida is short-sighted, the only thing that concerns me as an economic development professional in Florida is the issue of “Confidentiality”. Will the new Dept of Commerce be able to work with industry and business companies and maintain a level of confidentiality about their project plans??? With Florida’s extremely restrictive Sunshine Law, that is a concern for me and I’ve not read or heard an answer to this issue.

    • Amber

      May 5, 2023 at 3:06 pm

      Eliminating Enterprise Florida was only a petty personal vengeance on behalf of the speaker. Beyond that nothing that truly effects economic development was planned or thought out. But to answer your question, no, you can not trust DEO with anything.

  • Amber

    May 5, 2023 at 3:05 pm

    Eliminating Enterprise Florida was only a petty personal vengeance on behalf of the speaker. Beyond that nothing that truly effects economic development was planned or thought out. But to answer your question, no, you can not trust DEO with anything.

Comments are closed.


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